Great article, and you are correct - the increased deployment of distributed energy assets throughout the grid is shifting the paradigm of how the grid has been run historically.
To one of the points you have made, I have a thought/question for you.
I know the APPA has presented information about the degredation and shortened lifespan of generation assets when they are utilized to perform ancillary services (a key place distributed systems can reduce the burden on our infrastructure). I think this is a key point to keep in perspective in this discussion. While nat gas generation facilities (small or large) can perform these services, we need to be sure to factor in the overall cost - increased emissions from inefficient dynamic generation, shortened lifespan for these multi-million dollar power plants, and increased downtime and repair for the asset.
Ideally, we would want any generating facility doing what it does best, producing energy and delivering it to the grid. If we can leverage demand response, smart grid flexibility, and distributed assets like storage and renewables to maintain power quality and resiliency and let a fossil fuel plant run as close to 100% efficiency at all times as is possible, it seems we can make the best use of all the tools that we have at our disposal.
Ramping generation facilities has a hidden cost that is not typically factored in to our long term and integrated resource planning. The idea of using smaller generating facilities is plausible, but is indicative of the real need - flexibility and dynamic resources that are responsive, in an instant.
While market structures like pay for performance are helping to quantify the real value of instantaneous, flexible resources, it would seem a more widespread adoption of policies and regulation that are able to reward systems for the more complex values they provide - resiliency, T&D upgrade deferal, accuracy - is needed to move us forward.